TOPICS > Politics

Candidate Watch

January 14, 2004 at 12:00 AM EDT

JIM LEHRER: Now, five days away from the Iowa caucuses, we have snapshots from the Democratic presidential campaigns of John Kerry and Dick Gephardt. Kerry spoke today in Davenport; Gephardt in Nevada.

SEN. JOHN KERRY: I don’t come here today just to offer my resume — that’s not what this is about — I offer my gut, I offer my heart, I offer my efforts that have sometimes taken great risks to stand up against those kinds of powerful interests that keep stealing from us the ability to deliver the full measure of our own democracy.

From the moment that I came home from Vietnam, I have spent 35 years fighting, fighting for the real values of our country, not the distorted, pull-driven, consultant-driven, Washington-driven, strategy-driven, wedge-driven, lowest common denominator-driven values, but the real values of America.

And I believe … I believe in standing up for people. I believe in taking on those powerful interests as a matter of conviction, and fighting day to day, and year to year, to try to make a difference in the history of our nation. Ladies and gentlemen, one thing I’ve learned in my life, in public life is that one problem we don’t have in America is that the middle class has too much money. I think we need to protect it, and I intend to do that.

And I will guarantee you that we will cut the deficit in half in four years, as Bill Clinton did; protect the middle class. But I’m going to roll back the tax cut for wealthy Americans so we can invest in education and health care and in our communities, and balance our budget and grow the economy of our country.

That is what is important. I am asking you to measure candidates not by what they say, not by the positions that they adopt for the convenient purposes of a campaign — some of which change month-to-month in the course of the campaign.

I am asking you to measure me by a lifetime of fighting consistently for the values and principles of our party and our country — the fight to make our workplace fair, the fight to be able to lift up the quality of life for all Americans, and the struggle for a foreign policy that makes us proud, wins us allies, makes us friends on this planet, and wins the respect and influence that the United States needs to make us safer in the world. (Applause)

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT: Every idea I’ve offered during this campaign has been grounded in both my life experience and my experience at the highest levels of government.

My health care plan, inspired by Matt and all of those other children, is the only plan that covers all 43 million uninsured Americans. It also jump-starts the economy with a $100 billion economic stimulus in the first year alone.

The next closest plan, Howard Dean’s, leaves 13 million uninsured, and has one-fourth of the economic stimulus. John Kerry’s plan leaves 16 million uninsured with a $29 billion stimulus. And John Edwards would leave 21 million uninsured with no stimulus at all. To me, that is not good enough.

There’s a very strong case to be made against George Bush, but we as a party need someone who can make that case without hindrance or qualification. We must nominate someone who presents a clear contrast with George Bush on issues that can win the election for us. On the issue of free and fair trade, for instance, there are clear contrasts to be drawn with George Bush.

Many of the 3 million jobs he’s lost really aren’t lost at all. We know exactly where they’ve gone: Overseas. Only George Bush could manage to alienate the world while he gives the world our jobs.

You can’t have fair trade without fair labor and fair environmental standards. And you can’t take on George Bush if you’re only a fair-weather friend of the American worker. (Applause) It’s particularly troubling with Governor Dean.

He’s been so clearly on both sides of the trade issue, and many others. Today, he’s campaigning against NAFTA because he knows that’s what Democratic audiences want to hear. But as recently as last March, he said NAFTA was a good thing. It’s become nearly impossible to know what Governor Dean really believes.

Only a few weeks ago, it was reported that part of his strategy was to “give the Democratic crowd the red meat it craved.” He said, “I won’t be talking like this during the general election.” Well, there’s something new.

I guess you can call yourself a straight-talker as long you tell people you’re not talking straight with them. (Applause) Howard, Democrats are not animals in need of red meat. After four years of George Bush, we need honesty for a change.

I’ve come to realize that Howard Dean isn’t shooting from the hip. That’s just making excuses. Howard Dean knows exactly what he’s saying when he says it. And if you think he’s contradicting himself, well, as far as he’s concerned, that’s your problem and not his. Democrats deserve a lot better than that.